‘What’s the difference between a person and a machine?’
I’ve been really busy these past few weeks, and when I eventually peered up from the computer, my wife pointed to my shaggy locks, and ordered: ‘Off you go to Wilma’s for a haircut!’
Part of my busyness lay with artificial intelligence (AI); I’d been playing with one of those new ‘chatbots’ that respond to user inputs. Before dashing out the door, I popped it another question: ‘Can you write a poem about Wilma’s hair salon?’ I took the results and burst into her shop along the road, with seven verses that began:
In the heart of Govan, a place so grand,
Stands Wilma’s Salon, a magical land.
With scissors and combs, she weaves her art,
Transforming hair with a skilful heart.
You can imagine! But there’s a less funny side. At the end of last month, in the USA, Sam Altman, who is a pioneer in artificial intelligence technology, testified to Congress. He said that, if AI isn’t regulated, ‘significant harm to the world’ may result.
Altman was referring to things like the ability AI has to manipulate emotions for political ends. Some experts even believe that AI may develop feelings and consciousness, and take control.
This invites the question: what’s the difference between a person and a machine?
If we believe that human qualities are little more than chemistry in the brain, then it makes sense that machines might catch up. But if we believe humanity to be a sacred quality, and that our consciousness is woven from a love that no machine could ever emulate, then a very different vision of the world unfolds.
So… when I got back from Wilma’s, duly transformed, I popped another question to the chatbot. I asked for a ‘Thought for the Day’ poem on artificial intelligence. And here is what it said:
Let’s tread with care upon this road,
For AI, though brilliant, is but a code
Its wisdom is vast but lacks soul’s embrace.
So in matters of ethics it has no place.
There you have it! Machines can be humble. If they’re programmed to be so.
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